Leadership lessons from C. F. Martin

  |   Leadership Development Print Friendly and PDF

The C. F. Martin Guitar Company sold their first guitar in 1833. They’ve had a quality reputation and family ownership since the beginning.  Here’s a quote from their 1904 catalog:

“How to build a guitar to give this tone is not a secret. It takes care and patience. Care in selecting materials, laying out the proportions, and attending to the details which add to the player’s comfort. Patience in giving the necessary time to finish every part. A good guitar cannot be built for the price of a poor one, but who regrets the extra cost for a good guitar?”

There are lessons there for you if you’re concerned about developing your own leadership skills. There’s no secret about how to develop. You can develop leadership skills the same way C. F. Martin builds their excellent guitars.

Care in Selecting Materials

At C. F. Martin, they know that you can’t build a quality guitar from substandard materials. So, they pay attention to the quality of the wood and the glues and other components that go into their guitars.

In the world of leadership development, you get to select materials, too. There are plenty of books and courses that you can read or take. Select quality even if it costs more. The people around you are important, too.  The best leaders surround themselves with the best people.

You’ll have the opportunity to take on different developmental assignments. These short-term arrangements give you the opportunity to put your principles and ideas to the test. Do them well and people notice.

Attending to The Details

When you’re developing as a leader, the details are the ways you get the most from your learning. Too many people spend a day at a course, or a few hours reading a book and assume they’ve gotten everything they can. That’s hardly ever true.

Getting the most from your learning investment starts with taking good notes. Review those notes. Try some of the ideas you get.

Develop good habits and routines. Those habits and routines free you from having to concentrate on many routine details. They give your brain space to work on more-important things.

Review and reflect. Take time every day to think about your work and your career and your life. Many great leaders have used a journal to help guide their reflection and capture their thoughts.


In my work lifetime, I’ve seen way too many people promoted too fast. That’s often coupled with a demand to produce right away. The newly promoted person doesn’t have time to learn. Often, they’re promoted to the next job before they can learn from the results in their current job.

Build your leadership skills foundation slowly so it’s solid. When you do that, you’re ready for a big break when it comes.


You can develop your leadership skills the same way C. F. Martin makes world-class guitars.

Read excellent books and attend helpful events.

Surround yourself with people who support you and help you grow.

Get the most from your learning.

Develop good habits and routines.

Be patient and build a strong leadership foundation.

Join The Conversation

What People Are Saying

Henry Mukuti   |   08 May 2021   |   Reply

Very interesting and insightful article. My takeaways; A good leader invests time in reading and learning; Patience helps you build a strong foundation for your leadership skill.

Keep doing what you are doing very much appreciate your work.

Wally Bock   |   11 May 2021   |   Reply

Thanks for adding to the conversation.